Helping families in their time of need

It isn’t the kind of news that grabs big headlines. Still, it is meaningful to the Hamilton County families we serve.

Our agency, at the U.S. Food and Nutrition Service’s Midwest Partners for Program Improvement Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan, received an award for timely processing of food assistance applications in 2017. In fact, we had the highest timeliness rate in a six-state region of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota.

Processing 98.67 percent of food applications in a timely manner isn’t the kind of news that gets a mention on the 6 o’clock newscast. But it means a great deal to a hungry family when they receive the help they need as quickly as possible.

When people come to us, they have usually exhausted all other options. They are unable to feed their families, having tapped out their bank accounts, their friends and family members and even their number of visits at local food banks. We are a last resort and they need help right away.

I am proud of the work our Family and Adult Assistance staff do. This isn’t their first award for timely processing. We have a clear recent history where we have performed exceptionally well in this area. Our rates in 2016 and 2015 were just a shade lower, at 95 percent. And, comparatively, we performed better in 2017 than Ohio’s other major metropolitan counties – Cuyahoga (83 percent) and Franklin (95 percent) – as well as the state’s overall rate of 92 percent.

Ensuring your family is fed and not hungry is something we all understand. Our role is to provide temporary assistance until families get to a better place.

JFS currently has 104,000 recipients in 49,000 receiving food assistance. That is about one in eight in our community. This is the smallest number since before the recession hit in 2007. Our caseload has been dropping for the past couple of years, but during the recession, we got as high as 145,000 recipients per month. That is one in five in our community.

Last year, we spent more than $164 million helping county residents feed their families. That is $13.6 million a month.

Eligibility for food stamps starts at 130 percent of the federal poverty level. That is $2,665 in monthly gross income for family of four.

That family of four would receive a maximum monthly allotment of $640. At that maximum allotment, the parent is feeding the family on $21 a day, or $7 a meal for four people.

That is not a lot. But it is significant to a struggling parent who is trying to meet the needs of their family. That is why we must act fast.

by Jane Prendergast

Filed Under: From the Director

Tagged: food assistance, food stamps, hamilton county department of job and family services, hamilton county job and family services, hunger, moira weir, snap, supplemental nutrition assistance program